Nathan Chan (right) and Cory Lo, friends from high school, have pedaled over 1400 miles across western Canada.
By Paul Janczewski
It began as nothing more than a 1,400-mile-long Canadian bike trip between Vancouver, British Columbia and Winnipeg, Manitoba for Nathan Chan and Cory Lo, two high school friends now attending law school who wanted a personal challenge to overcome.
But that trip has taken on a higher meaning after Lo’s dad passed away last December from cancer and complications from a stroke, and the trek has been dedicated to honor and remember the father, not only in the silent reflections the two will share while peddling across the Trans-Canada highway, but also by seeking monetary donations for three health organizations through websites established by Chan.
Chan, 30, of Vancouver, has just finished his second year at Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills campus, and said he hopes the trip will be an inspiration to others to contribute funds for research and raise awareness of lung cancer. Chan said after consulting with his friend about his ideas to combine the trip with fund-raising for charities, the journey was planned “with this new focus and inspiration driving us forward.”
Chan said he has arbitrarily set a goal of $9,000 in donations – $3,000 for each of his three selected foundations, the BC Lung Association, Canadian Cancer Society, and Heart & Stroke Foundation. He has sent out e-mails to friends and family seeking support.
And Dean John Nussbaumer of Cooley’s Auburn Hills campus is trying to do his part to help one of their students. He described Chan as “one of our top students” with a perfect 4.0 grade point average after 24 credits earned.
“I plan to make a contribution, and I am encouraging our students, faculty and staff to do so as well,” Nussbaumer said.
Chan said he appreciates the help Nussbaumer has pledged to help publicize his quest within the Cooley community, and to raise awareness through the three foundations.
Chan and Lo have been friends since early high school in Vancouver, and have shared one important characteristic.
“We are not afraid to dream big and then work to achieve our lofty goals,” Chan said. “Cory and I have always done new, interesting and challenging things to test ourselves by thinking outside the box.”
He said Lo is his only friend who regularly goes hiking with him at Grouse Mountain Grind, or waited in line with him for nearly six hours for a 20-second zip line during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, or encouraged him to apply for astronaut training with the Canadian Space Agency.
“And he is the only person I know who would dream of biking (1,400 miles) for fun,”
Chan said. “Cory is a genuine person who has lost an important part of his life, and that is why I am doing this ride with him.”
Lo, 28, also of Vancouver, said it’s not surprising that Chan was nicknamed “Dai Lo,” Cantonese for “Boss,” while in high school, because he always had a plan.
“Adventures with (Chan) are always going to be a good time (because) he’s never been afraid to dream big.”
After graduating from the University of British Columbia in 2005 with a degree in pharmacy, Chan worked for six years as a pharmacist but found the job “monotonous.”
Early in his career, Chan said he realized he could not do this job for life “and I was too young to stop learning.
“I’ve always been a very logical thinker, and I thought that my mind works exactly how a lawyer’s (mind) would,” he said.
Chan chose law because he wanted a career “that actually makes a difference in this world.” After graduating, he hopes to specialize in international law with an emphasis in environmental protection and human rights.
He chose Cooley because it’s close to relatives in Toronto, caters to international students, offered flexible schedules, and scholarship assistance. There also are many Canadian students at Cooley, which he said has a less cut-throat environment than other law schools.
“Everybody in my first-year class knows everyone else, talks with everyone else, and helps each other,” Chan said.
Lo graduated from the University of Victoria in 2009 with a degree in economics, but decided law was his future “during one of those days skipping classes and watching Law & Order reruns.” Now a third year law student at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Lo plans on graduating later this year and hopes to practice in the area of criminal law.
Chan said the bike trip had been planned for some time, and was originally set to start last April, after Lo graduated and returned home. But when Lo found out in 2011 that his father was sick, he took time off from school and delayed his graduation to be at home with him.
Lo said he returned to school shortly after his father’s death last December. He said the bike trip may serve to be somewhat therapeutic.
“The chaos of everyday life doesn’t leave much time for reflection,” he said. “It’s different on the road. It’s just you and your thoughts. It’s really given me a chance to reflect on everything about (my father), his life, and his passing,” Lo said.
The trip began for Lo on August 7, but Chan started three days later after taking an exam. Chan said the pair hopes to finish around the end of August after traveling through major cities in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. They plan to average 60-95 miles per day over the trip, stopping at sites that pique their interest.
Chan is posting an interesting, insightful and somewhat amusing day-by-day description of the trip, which includes how many miles and hours they’ve traveled, what they’ve run into, and crazy items he’s seen scattered on the roadsides. He writes that on the first day, his iPod died after a few hours and instead of music, he was serenaded by his “own pain and breathing.”
Riding uphill is really tough, downhill on gravel shoulder is “nerve wrecking,” but “bombing downhill” on smooth concrete is “AWESOME!”
He has seen debris on the roads that include half a cafeteria tray, a box from a blow-up doll, and a Loonie coin that he was too tired to stop for, apologizing to his Asian genes.
He reported about camping overnight where mosquitoes “ate us alive,” about getting hit by flying stones from trucks, and riding through a downpour and high winds.
Chan and his friend have faced good road conditions, bad road conditions, a pitch-ablack tunnel, and fixing two flat tires. They’ve lost time and had to backtrack through a construction zone, been hit by hoards of flies, and endured a blazing sun, aching joints, and sore rears from riding.
But Chan said thos pains and discomforts are nothing compared to their mission. “Personally, I think that such a physical challenge is absolutely nothing compared to a person living or dealing with a terminal illness,” he said. “We can easily keep ourselves going by prioritizing the two.”
To make donations or check their progress, visit the BC lung Association at http://superteam
2012.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=999152&supId=362922061; the Canadian Cancer Society at http://tinyurl.com/coy2LZ3; or the Heart & Stroke Foundation at http://www.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=492719&supId=364005179.
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